Slowdown tales: Bhiwandi’s power looms fall silent

Bhiwandi once had more than 8 lakh power looms & the textile hub was a guaranteed source of income for many.

BCCL
The Ministry of Textiles recently announced some assistance for modernisation of power looms.
Bhiwandi, a city of power looms, was once known as the ‘Manchester of India’. Today it is on the verge of losing its identity. In the past, people visiting the city would be greeted with the rhythmic sound of looms, emanating from every lane. Khadipar, Nalapar, Darga Road, etc, were little hubs of industry – not only during the day, but also at night. The idea that one day this sound would fade away would have been unimaginable back then. But that is exactly what has happened. The slowdown has had a calamitous effect on the power loom industry too.


MSMEThe city once had more than eight lakh power looms, and the textile hub was a guaranteed source of income for many workers who travelled from Andhra Pradesh and North India to work here. Today, 40 per cent of the looms are closed; and thousands have been sold because of lack of working capital.


According to the Ministry of Textiles’ 2017-18 annual report, the sector accounts for 2 per cent of the GDP, 7 per cent of industry output and 15 per cent of India’s export earnings. Around 4.5 crore people work in it. The power loom sector contributes to 57 per cent of the total cloth production in the country, and more than 60 per cent of fabric meant for export is also sourced from it.

The Bhiwandi Textile Manufacturers Association, Bhiwandi Auto Powerloom Weavers Association, Bhiwandi Powerloom Weavers Federation and the Bhiwandi Padmanagar Powerloom Weavers Association have written a number of letters in the past three months to Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, in which they have laid out the issues facing the industry.

Loom owners and weavers say the current drop in overall textile demand is at its highest in six months. They also complain about the electricity tariff, heavy maintenance costs and GST issues. Many owners have sold their looms for scrap, while others have closed their units. Some have emptied their units and given them on rent to other businesses.

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Yasin Ansari, 60, is the face of Bhiwandi’s slowdown. He took us to his industrial unit, which is in the middle of a basti. We passed a homeopathic clinic on our way. Including an office, a godown and three units, he has more than 1,200 square feet space. “I had 120 power looms. I need money, so I am selling them one by one,” he said. “At my age I have no option. There is no other source of income. So far I have sold 60. I have to feed my family. I have already sold my house and we have moved to a rented space now. I was a khandani industrialist, but now I work part time as an accountant,” Ansari, who was wearing a bright white shirt and grey trouser, told Mumbai Mirror.

In order to supplement his income, Ansari has also started goat farming on a small scale. Some of the animals were tied to the bolted power looms. His office is full of stuff like TV and furniture. “We don’t have space in our rented space to keep everything. So I have kept some of the stuff here,” Ansari said. Until recently, the office was busy. “There is the table where we used to check the quality of the material,” he said. The empty units have low-hanging tube light holders, the sort you see in other loom factories. There are spare parts on the floor. Parts of equipment lie outside, rusting in the rain. “I feel bad when I see this place now. This was a place of business, and now it is barren space. If I have to rent this out I have to invest some money in renovation – and I don’t have that money,” Ansari, who has five children and parents to feed, said.

There were other units nearby, locked. The owners wouldn’t even discuss their problems, because they felt it would be “useless”. Sridhar from Sonpada said: “There have been problems for the past two year, but no leader is interested in the revival of our industry.”

The Ministry of Textiles recently announced some assistance for modernisation of power looms. Rupesh Agarwal, who runs Khadipar-based New Krishna Textile, was one of those who applied for the benefits. “I took a loan for automation of my units because the government promised subsidy. Now here I am paying loan instalments, running around for subsidy money. It is very difficult to manage the business,” the young entrepreneur said.

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Pradeep Jindal, chairman of Bhiwandi Auto Powerloom Weavers Association, wrote in one of the letters to Irani: “The domino effect of job losses in textiles on other industries due to reduced consumption will be unprecedented. The subsequent rise in NPAs due to shutdowns may lead to a collapse of an already fragile financial system.”

The associations fear that if the government allows import of textiles under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement between the 10-member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its six FTA partners, that will kill the industry.

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MY Momin, president of Bhiwandi Powerloom Weavers’ Federation, in a letter to the finance minister, chief minister and textiles commissioner, wrote: “The master weavers are winding up their business, causing unemployment on a very large scale. The workers should be financially aided… so they can start their businesses afresh. The decentralized power loom sector is facing starvation and has come to a point of getting totally wiped out.”

Purushottam Wanga, chairperson of Bhiwandi Padmanagar Powerloom Weavers Association, pointed out that the government had reduced technology upgradation subsidy, from 30 per cent to 20 per cent. He requested that the full subsidy be immediately restored.
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